Monument to South African Indian history

2014-11-17 00:00

FROM toiling in the fields as indentured labourers to discussing business in the boardroom, 154 years have seen the Indian community in South Africa grow and prosper.

Since Friday, a host of celebrations were held in Durban and Pietermaritzburg respectively to commemorate the arrival of Indians on South African shores.

On Friday evening, a hall at the Royal Show Grounds in Pietermaritzburg was dressed in a golden splendour, hosting some of the most prominent Indian community and business members.

Big names on the guest list were political activist and granddaughter of the late Mahatma Gandhi, Ela Gandhi; the Consulate General of India Rajagopalan Raghunathan; and the representative of the Dalai Lama in Africa, Nangsa Chodon.

Raghunathan said that this was a very important and historic occasion for all South Africans.

“The first generation of Indians in South Africa toiled hard for the subsequent generations to succeed. We have contributed to the overall wealth of the country in many ways and we should not forget where we came from and what our forefathers went through,” he said.

Chodon, who was in South Africa for the first time, described the country as “beautiful with a diversity of people”. She described how the history of Tibet and its links to India has forged eternal connections with people from both cultures.

“We [Tibetans and Indians] are as close as brothers and sisters … because of India’s help in the past, the Dalai Lama remains in Dharamsalah to this day,” Chodon said.

In Durban, KZN Arts and Culture Department officially handed over the 1860 Heritage Centre to the facility’s board of directors yesterday.

Formerly known as the Durban Cultural and Documentation Centre, it is an information hub on South Africa’s Indian Community’s heritage.

It aims to develop a state-of-the-art interactive museum, digitise its archival records for research purposes and produce documentaries on the community’s history.

The KZN MEC for Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Nomusa Dube-Ncube, joined the High Commissioner of India and other dignitaries in unveiling three heritage monuments commemorating the 154 year anniversary.

“This unveiling … will be taking place [while] our country is celebrating 20 years of freedom. These monuments [are] a reminder of the distance that we have travelled to form what is recognised today as the rainbow nation,” said Dube-Ncube.

• amil.umraw@witness.co.za

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